FOR those following the debate around trans lives in Scotland, three very interesting things happened last Thursday – a rally, an announcement and the long-awaited publication of Scotland’s second consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act. Each tells a part of a broader story.

Firstly, the consultation results. There’s no denying that the announcement of a second consultation on GRA reform caused serious unease in Scotland’s LGBT+ community. At that time, the process of moving toward a system of self-declaration had already been so painfully drawn out that it was an act of political weakness to kick the issue into the future in the face of a small, but loud, minority in opposition to it – particularly given that the first consultation had shown a significant majority of Scots backed the proposed changes.

Yet in the face of a press so hostile to trans equality that not so long ago, The Economist tweeted the question “Should transgender people be sterilised before they are recognised?” (it later apologised, saying it had been wrong to use the line out of its context), the second consultation has found that a majority of organisations are still in favour of reform.

And while human rights issues should never come with the caveat that they are more popular than morally necessary, it will at least help to dispel the wilful delusion that opposition to trans liberation is anything more than a minority position within Scotland.

 READ MORE: Scottish Government to press ahead with gender recognition reform

Secondly, the announcement. Like the proverbial butterfly awaiting the time to press its coloured splendour into the world, GRA reform is back on the cards – but it won’t come without a struggle.

Reforming the act remains such a miniscule step toward trans liberation as to be wholly irrelevant to the vast majority of Scots – a change to the process by which transgender people can update their legal documents and nothing more. Yet having become such a lynchpin for middle-class Scotland’s backlash against equalities legislation, it has in turn taken on more cultural significance than simple bureaucracy has any right to.

In passing, it will be the downfall of the many myths and unfounded warnings against transgender people that have come to make up the bulwark of so-called gender-critical discourse, placing Scotland alongside its many European neighbours which have already introduced a process of gender self-declaration without issue.

And finally, the rally outside the Scottish Parliament. When people began organising against GRA reform, it was hard to breathe with all the dust being brushed off the old homophobic arguments of the 1980s – and while those rehashed arguments may have maintained their polished gleam these past few years, the similarities between today’s opposition to trans equality and the backward reactionary politics of the past are becoming increasingly clear.

The rally outside the Scottish Parliament was a fascinating mix of "gender critical" activists alongside the anti-LGBT Scottish Family Party and various Conservative MSPs who came out to show their support.

Most concerningly, however, a call also appeared to go out on the Telegram channel for members of the neo-Nazi group Patriotic Alternative to join the rally after noon.

A quick glance at a snapshot of the gathering and I suspect you would struggle to place what year this had taken place – and not just because several attendees had come cosplaying as Suffragettes.

Judging from images shared online, it looked like an outright parade of the greatest hits of homophobia – dire warnings for the future of our children alongside calls for Nicola Sturgeon to “leave our kids alone”.

I wouldn’t want to play the guilt-by-association game, but I do wonder at what point gender-critical activists will look around and wonder if they have perhaps planted themselves on the wrong side of history.

PERHAPS when you find yourself allied with the party that introduced the rape clause, whose austerity policies and benefit cuts disproportionately hurt women, it is maybe not the case that you are standing up for women at all.

When I started writing this column, I had intended for it to serve as a warning of sorts; a reminder that it is said the darkest hour comes just before the dawn. It came off the back of news that actor David Paisley, an outspoken gay rights activist and supporter of trans rights, would be leaving Scotland after receiving threats from a man who also claimed to know his home address.

 READ MORE: Trans people in Scotland tell of workplace bullying and harassment

A co-founder of the Woman’s Place organisation responded to the news by tweeting mocked-up a “David Paisley Threat Level” meter suggesting it was time to leave the country when “women won’t wheesht”, rather than acknowledge the impact of the harmful rhetoric that has come to define any discussion around trans equality. This, alongside the return of slogans painfully used against Scotland’s LGBT+ community in the past, led me to despair but instead I want to leave on a note of hope.

Haud fast. The end of this chapter is in sight. It will take pressure on the Scottish Government to follow through. It will take a community coming together, still, to look after one another. It will take strength and humour and resilience.

And then it will pass – and with it, these slogans and placards will find themselves once again in the dustbin of history.